I learned of a way to install Debian from USB using the netinstall image, which is fine. However it means I have to spend hours and hours downloading packages to do the install. Is there a way I can simply download (for example) the CD1 with most of gnome and then use that? The netinstall method using this does not work because there is not enough space. (I have enough space, it is that the method has a limitation). I rarely have CDs on hand and some machines do not have CD/DVD drives anyway.

I will research on this topic and answer my own question if need be, however any help in the meantime is appreciated.

  • You got links to guides you followed? Can you add commands you tried?
    – tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 6:49
  • I used the method to zcat boot.img.gz, but that only leaves room for a net install. :( Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 7:03

5 Answers 5


How about downloading the CD1 ISO, then put it on a USB and boot? (My favourite)

How about using an automated tool such as UNetbootin?

Here is another tool from Pendrivelinux.

  • Ok, thanks. Though I am fairly sure most of the methods (at least unetbootin) have problems. Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 7:03
  • 1
    Download the usb-hdd version. the cd version does not work on unetbootin (well at least in my experience) Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 8:24
  • Actually, UNetbootin with the HD-Media worked! You just have to take care to ensure you have the correct one for your image (stable, testing, unstable). Thanks! :) Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 10:21

As of Debian 6.0 (Squeeze), the netinstall and disc 1 of the regular install CD/DVDs are 'hybrid' ISOs. They can be burned to an optical disc and booted or copied onto a USB drive and booted.

To copy the ISO onto a USB drive from a linux system all you need to do is cat the ISO onto the drive.

cat debian.iso > /dev/sdX


  • 1
    This is absolutely the simplest method. Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 10:27

I like installing from live image: http://www.debian.org/CD/live/

I prefer unetbootin for making usb stick. I don't trust myself with the "cat > /dev/sdX" - in case if I wipe some other partition. Less likely, but still.


I had problems with the netinstall stable 64. I eventually overcame this: I found my binaries of nm and nm-applet and added the following to the top of the files with nano: #!/bin/busybox. I then cated them on to the usbinit that unetbootin puts onto the usb drive like so: cat /usr/bin/nm >> /media/sdc1/ubninit and cat /usr/bin/nm-applet >> /media/sdc1/ubninit.

If you try this and it doesn't work, no big loss, but just remember to delete the line you added to nm and nm-applet.

  • I thought that was impossible. You may wish to suggest those changes to the debian unetbootin maintainer. (perhaps via the debian bugtracker)
    – Jasen
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 1:39

Arrowmaster's answer is now outdated as of Stretch, cat is not used in the latest installation guide. Use cp instead as root in your GNU/Linux system (where X is a letter from a to c and corresponds to your USB flash drive):

 # cp <name of iso>.iso /dev/sdX

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